Archive for May, 2011

Atlanta No. 20 on ‘most well-read cities’ list

We read.

Atlanta is No. 20 on a new list of most well-read cities.

Amazon.com compiled data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format since Jan. 1. The figures are calculated on a per capita basis for cities with more than 100,000 residents.

As you’d expect, college towns dominate the top of the list, with Cambridge, Berkeley, Ann Arbor and Boulder in the top five.

The big cities, like NYC, LA and Chicago, did not make the top 20.

And our neighbor to the south, Florida, had the most cities in the top 20 among the states — Miami, Gainesville and Orlando.

Most Well-Read American Cities

1. Cambridge, Mass.

2. Alexandria, Va.

3. Berkeley, Calif.

4. Ann Arbor, Mich.

5. Boulder, Colo.

6. Miami

7. Salt Lake City

8. Gainesville, Fla.

9. Seattle

10. Arlington, Va.

11. Knoxville

12. Orlando

13. Pittsburgh

14. Washington, D.C.

15. Bellevue, Wash.

16. Columbia, S.C.

17. St. Louis

18. Cincinnati

19. Portland, Ore.

20. Atlanta

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For …

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CEO tries to re-energize Callaway Gardens

How does a CEO rejuvenate a respected brand that became stale?

With Memorial Day kicking off the prime tourist season, I wanted to find out how the top dog at Callaway Gardens is dealing with a family treasure that had fallen on tough times.

Edward Callaway

Edward Callaway

No one is a harsher critic of what the 13,000-acre gardens and resort had become than Edward Callaway, the grandson of the founder who’s now in charge.

“From the 1990s to the mid-2000s, we were stuck. We didn’t do much. There was not a lot of innovation and it got real sleepy,” Callaway, 56, told me last week.

Sleep had costly repercussions, as a once top-of-the-mind tourist spot, 80 miles south of Atlanta in Pine Mountain, had become an after-thought for many vacationers.

A common refrain from consumers, Callaway said: “I love Callaway Gardens. I went there 15 years ago.”

The result: Revenue and expenses for the nonprofit gardens and the for-profit resort (golf, tennis, inland beach, bike and nature trails, …

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Power Breakfast: Thrashers move to Canada likely this week, frequent fliers, light rail, cyber combat, Japan, Greece

This could be a sad week for sports in Atlanta.

The proposed sale of the Thrashers to a group that would relocate the team to Winnipeg continued to inch toward completion through the holiday weekend, AJC reporter Tim Tucker writes.

A person close to the process told Tucker the Thrashers’ ownership group had not signed the deal as of Monday afternoon. But he added that lawyers continued to work on details and indicated an announcement is likely this week, possibly -– but not necessarily -– as early as Tuesday.

The person said no late offers have been received from any potential bidders to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that officials at “The Forks,” a meeting place in downtown Winnipeg, have been told to prepare for a party “Tuesday at the earliest” to celebrate a Thrashers announcement, Tucker writes. Also, Canadian sports network TSN reported that True North Sports and Entertainment –  the group attempting to buy the team …

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U.S. workers lag in vacation time

Memorial Day weekend is widely considered the kickoff of the American vacation season.

But are we taking as many vacations these days — especially when compared with the rest of the industrialized world?

Only 57 percent of U.S. workers use up all of the days they’re entitled to, compared with 89 percent of workers in France, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found, according to a CNN story.

What’s more, we get fewer vacation days.

“The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation,” writes the Center for Economic and Policy Research in a 2007 report, “No-Vacation Nation.” The center is a progressive think-tank based in Washington, D.C.

By contrast, European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, the report says.

The gap between paid time off in the U.S. and much of the world grows larger if legally mandated paid holidays are included, the report says. The U.S. offers none, but most …

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Power Breakfast: Immigration law causes labor shortage at Georgia farms, pay by cellphone, Georgia Power, Popeyes

AJC reporter Jeremy Redmon has written an interesting story about fallout from the state’s new immigration law:

Migrant farmworkers are bypassing Georgia because of the state’s tough new immigration enforcement law, creating a severe labor shortage among fruit and vegetable growers here and potentially putting hundreds of millions of dollars in crops in jeopardy, agricultural industry leaders said this week.

Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, said he has been in close contact with Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black about the shortage, calling it the most severe he has seen. Hall said it’s possible state officials could hold job fairs to steer some of Georgia’s unemployed workers to these farm jobs, which pay $12.50 an hour on average. The state’s unemployment rate is now at 9.9 percent.

Farmers, however, say they often have little luck recruiting Georgia residents to …

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Power Breakfast: Summer travel rising at Hartsfield-Jackson, metro unemployment drops, HOPE, AT&T, pensions

Fliers using the Atlanta airport this summer can expect bigger crowds and higher fares, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes.

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the high season for flying, and Hartsfield-Jackson expects 1.6 million travelers in the next six days, Yamanouchi reports. That’s up about 5 percent from last year.

The Air Transport Association forecasts 1.5 percent traffic growth nationally this summer, Yamanouchi writes.

“We’re preparing for a very busy travel season,” Hartsfield general manager Louis Miller told Yamanouchi. He said he hopes passenger traffiic at the airport for the full year will be up 3 percent to 5 percent. Last year, 89.3 million passengers used Hartsfield-Jackson, slightly off the record of 90 million passengers in 2008.

A 3 percent increase this year would set a new record for Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport, Yamanouchi writes.

Also in the AJC:

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Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate declines to 9.7 percent in April

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.7 percent in April, from a revised 9.8 percent in March, the state labor department said Thursday.

A year ago, the jobless rate also was 9.7 percent, the labor department said.

A total of 16,400 new jobs were added in the metro area in April — mostly in leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

Of the five core counties, Clayton had the highest rate at 11.8 percent. It was followed by Fulton (10 percent), DeKalb (9.9 percent), Cobb (9.1 percent) and Gwinnett (8.7 percent). The city of Atlanta posted a 10.6 percent jobless rate.

Last week, the labor department said Georgia’s unemployment rate for April was 9.9 percent, down from a revised 10 percent in March.

April marked the 43rd consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is currently 9.0 percent.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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More tolerant of rise in coffee prices than gas prices?

One fuels your body and the other your car.

But while the increase in the price of coffee has outstripped the hike in gas prices, consumers seem more tolerant of the former, Associated Press reports.

Unlike many other discretionary items, coffee usually emerges from a recession relatively unscathed, economists told AP. That’s because when money is tight, people may buy cheaper brands of coffee, but they won’t give it up completely.

Consumers won’t give up gas either, but we fume as we fill up our tanks to $40 or $50 or $60. And we look for ways to cut the cost — sometimes by combining or foregoing trips and sometimes by searching for the cheapest gas available.

I certainly get a lot more upset about rising gas prices than I do about coffee, which I would never give up in the morning.

How about you?

Are there price increases of other items that you also take in stride?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Condition of Ga. banks improving, Reynolds, Thrashers, Georgia Power, Chrysler, coffee

The condition of Georgia banks, which have led the nation in failures during this financial crisis, is improving, AJC reporter Scott Trubey writes.

Georgia banks significantly cut their losses in the first three months of 2011, compared to same the period a year earlier, Trubey writes.

The state’s banks lost a collective $83.2 million, down from $347.3 million in first quarter 2010, according to a federal report.

It was the best cumulative performance for the state’s banks since third quarter 2008, the last quarter in the black, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

Still, Georgia’s banks remain stressed, and they continue to lag the recovery seen in other states, Trubey reports.

Sixty-two percent of Georgia’s banks posted a profit in first quarter, compared to 87 percent nationally.

Twelve Georgia banks have failed this year, and the state leads the nation with 63 failures since mid-2008, Trubey reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Metro Atlanta is No. 3 in gas guzzling

Metro Atlanta is home to above-average unemployment and foreclosures.

Now, you can add another unwanted distinction to the list — we’re the nation’s third-worst area for gas guzzling at a time of high pump prices, Forbes reports.

The average Atlanta household drives 21,300 miles a year, using 1050 gallons of gas, Forbes writes. At $4 a gallon, that’s $4,200.

We burn 35 gallons of gas a year sitting in traffic jams, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2010 Urban Mobility Report.

Metro Atlanta follows just two North Carolina areas — Raleigh-Durham-Chapel-Hill and Charlotte — for the top spots in gas guzzling, Forbes reports.

Forbes asked the Center For Neighborhood Technology, a think tank in Chicago, to come up with the numbers. It’s not enough to look at where gas prices are highest — what matters most is how many miles you drive, Forbes writes. The methodology utilizes data gathered by federal and state surveys that come from the odometers of thousands …

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